Milestones: Thursday, November 2, 2023
ONE FAR-REACHING LETTER — THE BALFOUR DECLARATION LETTER, WRITTEN ON Nov. 2, 1917, more than a full year before the end of World War I, was a vital foundation of Zionism. On that occasion, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour (who had served as prime minister from 1903-05 and whose forebears were Members of Parliament) wrote a key letter to Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, in which he expressed his government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Lord Balfour believed in Zionism as a righteous cause; moreover, Britain’s leaders hoped that such an official statement in support of Zionism would garner Jewish support for the Allies. The Balfour Declaration led to immediate action after World War I ended, with the Ottoman Empire ceding Palestine and the Transjordan to Britain.
The Versailles Treaty of 1919 created the British Mandate system in which Great Britain was given charge and entrusted with the administration of Palestine. Their understanding was that Britain would work on behalf of Jewish and Arab inhabitants alike; but the period proved to be rife with conflict.
SURPRISE UPSET — DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENT PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN ON TUESDAY, NOV. 2, 1948 HAD THE LAST LAUGH OVER HIS POLITICAL OPPONENT AND IMPATIENT NEWS PUBLISHERS. Truman scored one of the biggest upsets in Presidential election history when he defeated his Republican opponent, then-New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey. Truman won over Dewey by a narrow two million popular votes, even though the political pundits were wagering against him. In fact, the pundits were so sure that Dewey would win, that the Chicago Tribune published an early edition with the banner headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” — hours before the vote count was complete. Truman had been vice president during the very brief fourth term of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had gotten America through both the Great Depression and World War II. Catapulted into the presidency when FDR died unexpectedly in April 1945, Truman was less popular than his predecessor, in part because he angered Southern Democrats who opposed his civil rights advocacy.
However, Truman embarked on a “whistle-stop” campaign that underscored his capabilities as an administrator, and as one frustrated with a “do-nothing Congress. His integrity and honesty were a major factory in his victory.
GOT HIS FEDERAL HOLIDAY— SLAIN CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. ON Nov. 2, 1983 WAS FINALLY HONORED WITH A FEDERAL HOLIDAY MEMORIALIZING HIM, even though it was set his birthday month of January instead of on the April 4 anniversary of his assassination in 1968. President Ronald Reagan, in a White House Rose Garden ceremony, signed the bill setting the federal holiday to observed on the third Monday of January. King’s birthdate had been Jan. 15, 1929. King organized the first Montgomery Bus Boycott, which turned out to be the first major protest event of the civil rights movement. Advocating non-violent civil disobedience, King led several more peaceful protests across the Jim Crow Southern U.S.
A powerful orator, Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963; and in 1964 had his greatest achievements the ratification of the 24th Amendment abolishing the poll tax that was prohibitive to Black people and poor white people; and the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination in employment and education and outlawed racial segregation in public facilities.
MARATHON AND OLYMPIC CHAMPION — NORWEGIAN DISTANCE RUNNER GRETE WAITZ WON HER EIGHTH NEW YORK CITY MARATHON on Nov. 2, 1986, finishing the 26-mile, 385-yard course in two hours, 28 minutes and six seconds, staying more than a mile ahead of the second- and third-place women in her category. A native of Oslo, Waitz had won her first marathon in New York in 1978 and she scored more wins in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985. Then, in 1988 she broke another record, winning the marathon for the ninth time, the first for a runner in any marathon.
Waitz also won the silver medal at the 1984 Olympics. Upon receiving a cancer diagnosis in 2005, she told the press, “I’m going to be in the marathon again.” Her long-distance time race with cancer ended with her death in 2011. She was 57.
BROKE “THE BILLY GOAT CURSE” — THE CHICAGO CUBS ON NOV. 2, 2016 WON THEIR FIRST WORLD SERIES championship since 1908, beating the Cleveland Indians, 8-7, in a thrilling Game 7 delayed by rain. The Chicago Tribune the next day proclaimed, “Let It Reign.” This win shattered the “Billy Goat Curse,” one of the more infamous ones in sports history, and baseball’s longest World Series title drought. The Curse of the Billy Goat supposedly was placed on the Cubs in 1945 by the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, after being denied entry to the game because he had brought his pet goat along. His famous words: “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again,” as USA Today reported at the time.
This 108-year-old curse was even longer than the “Curse of the Bambino,” named for Babe Ruth, in which the Red Sox never won a World Series against their arch-nemesis New York Yankees. Il Bambino had brought the Red Sox to victory many times until management traded him to the New York Yankees. That curse lasted from 1918 to 2004.
See previous milestones, here.
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